Moving from mining as unemployment plagues the Northern Cape

2016-07-11 11:44
(Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Springbok - Unemployment and its associated social problems have become rife in the Northern Cape since mines began downscaling nearly two decades ago, Nama Khoi local municipality mayor Boeboe van Wyk said on Wednesday.

Towns around Springbok, such as Carolusberg, Okiep and Nababeep were at one stage flourishing copper production centres.

"Mines closed totally around 2000 so we are sitting with former mining towns where there are no jobs for people," van Wyk told News24 in Springbok.

“It contributes to drug abuse. Tik is a problem and drinking is a problem. Tik leads to thefts and break-ins."

The last two years had been focused on combating HIV/Aids. Van Wyk believes this has "more or less stabilised".

To combat substance abuse required an integrated approach with social services, churches, unions and schools, he said.

Liquor stores

Community safety forums were being set up with the help of the provincial safety department. These would be co-ordinated by the municipality.

When visiting Springbok, News24 could not miss the large number of liquor stores at intervals on the town's streets. Groups of men huddled near the stores in the icy cold; some smoking while others clutched bottles of cheap wine or beer quarts.

Others hoping to find work were scattered on street corners in their overalls.

The mayor acknowledged these challenges.

"It is true that young people are unemployed, sometimes also they have qualifications and they can't get a job. It is true. We can't deny that it is real."

Van Wyk said there were also opportunities.

Future plans

"Earlier this year we opened four new workshops for training different artisans. For the first time they can do their trade test here. They don't have to go to Olifantsfontein or Kathu."

He also mentioned the possibility of up to 600 jobs with a new mine coming into production near Aggeneys in 2017.

Accepting that mining would not last forever, he spoke about what else the area could expect.

The N7 connects the municipality with Cape Town and Namibia. With the road upgrade nearing completion, he believes it will make a "huge difference" economically.

Springbok recently added a new hotel to its tourism offering and there are developers interested in building a shopping plaza in the middle of town.  Other big brands have approached the municipality for land.

Currently, there are only two major grocery retail outlets.

There were also plans to build a mall in the nearby suburb of Bergsig. Van Wyk said they had also approved land for justice department buildings there.

"People say you shouldn't talk about things being in the pipeline: Sometimes they can flow past you. But there are some plans and they are part of the national development plan."

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